Friday, November 4, 2016

letter to the parish - week before the election

Dear Friends,

I hope this newsletter finds you all in good health and spirits. Thank you for your commitment to our shared baptismal life at St. Bart’s. The abundance of our spiritual journey’s connecting with our Epistles in worship, Bible study life stories, at deep sharing over tables of the One Bread, One Body dinners - each moment affirming again and again what binds us together. Whether you have been active at St. Bart’s for decades or weeks, attending weekly or through prayer – we are a powerful example of the living church transforming lives in real time.

As one person wrote on the window in the sanctuary, I give “In gratitude for this community of faith that sustains me. Thanking God for God’s many blessings. Giving so others can receive.” Indeed, it takes a village to build the body Christ in our lives.

I want to be honest. This election cycle has forced me to come to terms with my own weaknesses. Too many nights I have wrestled with the angels when I felt overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and, yes, hopelessness as the stress mounts in our lives. I know many of you are weary too. We have heard and shared so many prayers of asking for God’s Grace to heal families, friendships, neighbors from turning against each other over political views: a stand on one of the Propositions, frustration after sacrificing so much to protect our constitution, shared rights for freedom, liberty and the right to vote. When these moments of weakness begin to swell within me, my baptismal alarm bells sound loudly.

I realize in these moments, I am not putting my full trust in God. I give thanks for my faith family to open my eyes to the power of God working in our midst. As one person wrote on the window, I give “Because St. Bart’s was there for me and I want it be here for the next person too.”

I realize I am part of a larger community of saints - baptized Christians. I give thanks for each baptism we offer, when we all renew our trust in God. God is with us every minute of every day. As one person wrote on the window, I give because “It’s a tangible expression of my faith.”

The mission of St. Bart’s (and all Christians) is to build bridges of reconciliation between all of God’s people. We are called to practice dignity, respect, compassion, generosity and love. God calls us not to celebrate our enemies' fall or their weaknesses. Rather, let us celebrate our common humanity. As one person wrote on the window, I give “to touch the lives of others.”

God calls us to extend our hands to all persons - a bridge between a police officer and a black man, a Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter, a Christian, Muslim and Jew. In each case, God calls us to bridge every divide to discover our innate, shared, God-given humanity and common good. The Beatitudes proclaim we are expected to love God’s people first. We should not change someone’s mind, but open our own heart and their heart to the presence of Christ. When we hear another’s story, we are transformed as are they.

I realize in these moments I yearn for the humility to be the benchmark, the shared desire, of every person, especially every politician, religious leader, friend, co-worker, family member and, yes, of me too. As one person wrote on the window “I want to give back to a church family that has given so much to me.”

God’s voice has been clear for generations. We all sin when we demonize and dehumanize any person, especially those who disagree or see the world differently from us. We sin when we promote fear, lies and bigotry. We sin when we bear false witness. We sin when we degrade women, people of other faiths and ethnic groups. We sin when we shame and blame another person publicly or privately. We sin when we remain silent and seated while another person suffers. It is sin that drives a wedge between families and neighbors.

I realize in these moments I love St. Bart’s and the Episcopal Church because I don’t have to be perfect and we don’t need to agree. I only need to seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness continuously. One person wrote on the window, “I give to be part of something larger than myself and to help people in need of spiritual guidance through the church”.

For generations, St. Bart’s has and will continue to seek every opportunity to proclaim the Good News by spreading the water of baptism over the flames of sin. Through our actions and presence, God’s mercy and grace will be made tangible and real to our families and neighbors.

In these moments, I love the Episcopal Church's DNA. It is a community of cultures and life stories, gathered into God’s gracious arms - welcoming everyone from all perspectives - a willingness to get messy sharing the love of Jesus Christ. What we share in His name is prayer, belief, baptism, forgiveness, bread and a passion to make the world a better place. We share in the one Body of Christ.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we have been given the God-given ability to counterbalance the venom of evil, pride and injustice as we seek to be agents of justice, goodness and hope. God is calling St. Bart’s to make the world a better place and we are doing just that. We can starve fear and feed hope. Together, we can extend our hands to stranger and friend.

Friends, I believe God is calling us to be relentless in our pursuit to bring dignity to every person and to be advocates for peace and justice in every corner of the world, our country, our families and the people of St. Bart’s. May we all be united in Christ regardless of the results of the election. Let’s put our trust in God and build the body of Christ together each day.

We are one bread, one body in Christ every day. Thanks be to God.

Faithfully yours,







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